President Trump declared President of the Venezuelan National Assembly Juan Guaido as head of the Venezuelan state this week. And technically, it appears to be true–Guaido, with the support of the Assembly, has the constitutional authority to declare himself as head of state. Of course the problem is that the National Assembly (NA) was declared as suspended in a vote by the country’s Supreme Court, and that a parallel Constituent Assembly (CA) was elected to override the National Assembly and rewrite the constitution. So what does Trump’s move really mean?
That the court and the CA is packed with Maduro loyalists is besides the point–previous elections installed Maduro and his predecessor Chavez as the head of state and the two men undertook steps to cement their hold on the state. At each step of the political process from when Chavez took office in 2002 to the first presidential election (2013) after Chavez’s death, a plurality of citizens in Venezuela voted again and again for laws and officials that would curtail their individual rights, nationalize the economy, and plunder the country’s resources. These votes did ensure to enrich the poorer and neglected classes of the country, but at the expense of lighting the whole economy in a corruption bonfire. Now the whole of Venezuela is broke, starving, and suppressed instead of just the poorer and neglected classes–except for Maduro loyalists.
As this blog has noted before–people deserve the governments that they labor under. And nowhere is this more true than in Venezuela. The country hasn’t had a free election since 2013 (the 2017 and 2018 elections were more of a publicity stunt), and the people have no one to blame but themselves. The only question now is whether a plurality of the people will have the stomach to throw off the Cuban yoke they have donned for themselves and demand that the Venezuelan politicians and military return to the all of the people for which the are supposed to serve–not just a privileged micro-minority. Will Venezuela become Zimbabwe, Nicaragua, or even Cuba? Or will it try to resuscitate itself like Chile and Argentina?
So without the support of the plurality of the Venezuelan people, Trump’s move is meaningless. Maduro will continue to sweat in the presidential palace, with one fearful eye on his own people, and the other on the sky looking for a foreign invasion. He and his cronies will cling to power in terror with the knowledge that if they are dethroned, the consequences to them will be truly terrible–perhaps imprisonment and even death. And Venezuela’s status as a pariah state will not change. Plenty of wealthy countries have no problem with pariah states. Countries like China and Russia will fall all over themselves to plunder Venezuela’s resources on the cheap while the Western world wrings its hands.
Would Trump really overthrow Maduro? Just like no one stopped Russia from invading the Ukraine and Georgia, and China from invading Tibet, no one is likely to stop the United States from engaging in a little backyard Monroe Doctrine. But such military adventurism is not likely to be viewed positively at home, any more than invading a perpetually troublesome Cuba would be. And it is unlikely other Western hemisphere countries would back such a move. It would take something drastic like Maduro’s military to indiscriminately gun its people down in the street by the tens of thousands. And if that happened, it is likely the Venezuelan people would take matters into their own hands.
So the Trump announcement is more political theatre. Nothing will change in the short term, although the thin veneer of Maduro’s legitimacy will become even thinner. And why does that matter when it didn’t for Castro or Ortega? As usual, the Venezuelan people will continue to be the victims will no relief in sight.